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o-Carbonyl arylboronic acids such as 2-formylphenylboronic acid (2-FPBA) are employed in biocompatible conjugation reactions with the resulting iminoboronate adduct stabilized by an intramolecular N–B interaction. However, few studies have utilized these reagents as active site-directed enzyme inhibitors. We show that 2-FPBA is a potent reversible, slow-onset inhibitor of mandelate racemase (MR), an enzyme that has served as a valuable paradigm for understanding enzyme-catalyzed abstraction of an α-proton from a carbon acid substrate with a high pKa. Kinetic analysis of the progress curves for the slow onset of inhibition of wild-type MR using a two-step kinetic mechanism gave Ki and Ki* values of 5.1 ± 1.8 and 0.26 ± 0.08 μM, respectively. Hence, wild-type MR binds 2-FPBA with an affinity that exceeds that for the substrate by ∼3000-fold. K164R MR was inhibited by 2-FPBA, while K166R MR was not inhibited, indicating that Lys 166 was essential for inhibition. Unexpectedly, mass spectrometric analysis of the NaCNBH3-treated enzyme–inhibitor complex did not yield evidence of an iminoboronate adduct. 11B nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy of the MR·2-FPBA complex indicated that the boron atom was sp3-hybridized (δ 6.0), consistent with dative bond formation. Surprisingly, X-ray crystallography revealed the formation of an Nζ–B dative bond between Lys 166 and 2-FPBA with intramolecular cyclization to form a benzoxaborole, rather than the expected iminoboronate. Thus, when o-carbonyl arylboronic acid reagents are employed to modify proteins, the structure of the resulting product depends on the protein architecture at the site of modification.


Accepted version. Biochemistry, Vol. 60, No. 32 (August 2021): 2508-2518. DOI. © 2021 American Chemical Society. Used with permission.

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